1997 Regular Session
To: Education; Appropriations
By: Representative Ketchings
House Bill 1687
AN ACT TO BE KNOWN AS THE "CHARTER SCHOOLS ACT"; TO PRESCRIBE THE PURPOSES OF THE ACT; TO PROVIDE THE PROCESS FOR APPLYING FOR AND RECEIVING A CHARTER TO OPERATE A CHARTER SCHOOL; TO PROVIDE THAT CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE EXEMPT FROM STATUTES AND RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS; TO PRESCRIBE THE MINIMUM PROVISIONS THAT MUST BE INCLUDED IN A CHARTER; TO ESTABLISH THE DURATION OF SUCH CHARTERS; TO PROVIDE THE GROUNDS ON WHICH A CHARTER SCHOOL'S CHARTER MAY BE REVOKED; TO PROVIDE FOR A BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS; TO PRESCRIBE ENROLLMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS; TO PROVIDE FOR FUNDING OF CHARTER SCHOOLS; TO ESTABLISH THE CHARTER SCHOOL STIMULUS FUND IN THE STATE TREASURY; TO AUTHORIZE LOANS FOR THE START-UP COSTS OF CHARTER SCHOOLS; TO REQUIRE THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO PUBLISH LISTS OF AVAILABLE BUILDING SPACE FOR CHARTER SCHOOL APPLICANTS; TO PROHIBIT UNLAWFUL REPRISAL AGAINST CHARTER APPLICANTS; TO DEFINE CERTAIN POWERS OF CHARTER SCHOOLS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the ACharter Schools Act.@
SECTION 2. (1) Charter schools may be established in the State of Mississippi pursuant to this act.
(2) The purposes of this act are: to provide increased opportunities in the public school system for students to learn in an educational environment that best meets their needs; to provide new forms of accountability for schools; to encourage increased involvement of parents and teachers in the operation and decision-making of a local public school; to encourage innovative and effective teaching methods; and to create new professional opportunities for teachers.
SECTION 3. (1) The sponsor of a charter school may be either a local school board or the State Board of Education. The sponsor may grant a charter to a public body or private nonprofit organization established according to the Mississippi Nonprofit Corporation Act.
(2) (a) An applicant for a charter school may submit its application to a local school board, which shall approve the application if it satisfactorily meets the requirements of this act. The school board shall either accept or reject sponsorship of the charter school within forty-five (45) days from the date the application is submitted. If the school board rejects the application, it shall notify the applicant in writing of the reasons for the rejection. The applicant may request, and the local school board may provide, technical assistance to improve the application. An applicant may submit a revised application for reconsideration by the school board. This process may continue until an agreement is reached or until the school board declares a final rejection.
(b) The applicant may submit its application to the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education shall review the application submitted by the applicant within forty-five (45) days and shall approve the charter if the application satisfactorily meets the requirements of this act. If the State Board of Education rejects the application, it shall notify the applicant in writing of the reasons for the rejection and of suggestions for improving the application. An applicant may submit a revised proposal for reconsideration by the State Board of Education. The applicant may request, and the State Board of Education may provide, technical assistance to improve the application. This process may continue until an agreement is reached or until the State Board of Education declares a final rejection.
(c) A local school district has no legal authority over or responsibility for a charter school sponsored by the State Board of Education.
(3) Except as provided in this act and in its charter, a charter school is exempt from all statutes and rules relating to schools, governing boards and school districts.
(4) The charter of a charter school shall ensure the following:
(a) That the school provides for a governing body for the charter school which is responsible for the policy and operational decisions of the charter school.
(b) That the school will comply with federal, state and local rules, regulations and statutes relating to safety, civil rights and insurance. The Department of Education shall publish a list of relevant rules, regulations and statutes to notify charter schools of their responsibilities under this paragraph.
(c) That the school will be nonsectarian in programs, admission policies and employment practices and all other operations.
(d) That the school will not charge tuition or other fees except those which are allowed by law to be charged by public school districts.
(e) That the school will provide a comprehensive program of instruction for at least one (1) grade level in kindergarten, elementary or secondary education. A school may offer this program of instruction with an emphasis on a specific learning philosophy, style or certain subject areas. If the school is a high school, the program of instruction shall ensure that each graduating student will have earned the minimum number of units required of public high school graduates by the State Department of Education.
(f) That the school has designed or identified an objective method to measure pupil progress.
(g) That the school will follow and be subject to the same audit requirements as a school district. A school=s charter may include exceptions to the requirements of this paragraph which are necessary as determined by the school board or the State Board of Education.
(h) That the school will comply with all federal and state laws relating to the education of children with disabilities in the same manner as a school district.
(i) That all students enrolled in the charter school who reside in the school district in which the charter school is located will have access to transportation to and from school. The charter may include an agreement with the school district for the district to provide this service.
(j) That the school will publicize the existence, nature and application requirements of the school to as many citizens of the school district in which it will be located as reasonably possible. Such publicity must include at least one (1) informational meeting to which the public is invited.
(5) The charter of a charter school shall include a description of the charter school=s personnel policies, personnel qualifications, method of school governance, a proposed budget for its first three (3) years of operation, the specific role and duties of the sponsor of the charter school, and any other information required by this act or agreed to by the applicant and the sponsor.
(6) The charter of a charter school may be amended at the request of the governing body of the charter school and with the approval of the sponsor.
SECTION 4. (1) (a) An approved plan to establish a charter school is effective for five (5) years from the first day of operation. At the conclusion of the first four (4) years of operation, the charter school may apply for renewal. The sponsor=s consideration of the application for renewal shall be subject to subsection (4) of this section.
(b) After renewal of the charter at the end of the five-year period, the charter may be renewed for successive periods of five (5) years if the charter school and its sponsor deem that the school is in compliance with its own charter and this act.
(2) The sponsor of a charter school may require the school to demonstrate on an annual basis its compliance with its charter and this act.
(3) (a) A charter issued under this act may be revoked by the sponsor, and the charter school shall be closed, if the sponsor determines that one or more of the following have occurred:
(i) Failure of the charter school to abide by and substantially meet the educational goals set forth in its bylaws and the charter;
(ii) Repeated or substantial failure of the charter school to maintain applicable safety standards;
(iii) Substantial failure of the charter school to meet auditing standards as required under this act; or
(iv) The existence of one or more other grounds for revocation as specified in the charter.
(b) The revocation of a charter pursuant to this section may be appealed by the charter school to the State Board of Education.
(c) The charter school shall remain open until the end of the school year in which the revocation takes effect, unless the State Department of Education determines that an extreme emergency situation exists which jeopardizes the safety and security of the students of the school.
SECTION 5. The initial board of directors of a charter school shall be designated by the applicants who have been granted the charter. This initial board shall govern the school=s first year of operation. Not less than six (6) months before the beginning of the second school year, the school shall hold an election for members of the school=s board of directors. The term of office for this board shall be set according to the charter. Administrative and instructional personnel of the charter school and all parents of children enrolled in the school may participate in the election.
SECTION 6. (1) A charter school shall enroll all eligible pupils who submit a timely application, unless the number of applications exceeds the capacity of the program, class, grade level or building. A charter school that is sponsored by a school board shall give enrollment preference to eligible pupils who reside within the boundaries of the school district where the charter school is physically located. If capacity is insufficient to enroll all pupils who submit a timely application, the charter school may give preference to siblings of students currently enrolled in the school. The charter school shall then select pupils through an equitable selection process such as a lottery.
(2) Except as provided in subsection (3) of this section, a charter school shall not limit admission based on ethnicity, national origin, gender, income level, disabling condition, proficiency in the English language or athletic ability.
(3) A charter school may limit admission to pupils within a given age group or grade level.
(4) A charter school shall admit pupils who reside in the attendance area of a school or who reside in a school district that is under a court order of desegregation or that is a party to an agreement with the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights directed toward remediating alleged or proven racial discrimination unless notice is received from the resident school that the admission would violate the court order of agreement. If a charter school admits a pupil after notice is received that the admission would constitute such a violation, the charter school is not allowed to include in its student count the pupils wrongfully admitted.
SECTION 7. (1) Charter schools shall not charge tuition, levy taxes or issue bonds.
(2) A charter school shall receive from its sponsor an allocation of funds based on the following formula:
(a) Student count, as defined in this section, multiplied by;
(b) The average per-pupil expenditures, as defined by the State Department of Education for the district in which the charter school is located.
(3) The student count for each year of operation shall be determined initially using an estimated student count based on actual registration of pupils before the beginning of the school year. After the first one hundred (100) days in session, the charter school shall revise the student count to be equal to the actual average daily attendance. Before the one hundredth day in session, the State Board of Education may require a charter school to report periodically regarding pupil enrollment and attendance.
(4) A charter school shall receive from its sponsor disbursements as follows:
(a) On July 1 and on January 15, one-third (1/3) of the total amount to be apportioned during the fiscal year.
(b) On October 15, November 15, February 15 and April 15, one-twelfth (1/12) of the total amount to be apportioned during the fiscal year.
SECTION 8. (1) There shall be established a Charter Schools Stimulus Fund in the State Treasury for the purpose of providing financial support to charter school applicants and charter schools for start-up costs and costs associated with renovating or remodeling existing buildings and structures. The fund shall consist of monies appropriated by the Legislature and grants, gifts, devises and donations from any public or private source. The State Department of Education shall administer the fund.
(2) The State Board of Education shall adopt rules to implement this section, including application and notification requirements. If sufficient monies are available for this purpose, monies from the Charter Schools Stimulus Fund shall be distributed to qualifying charter school applicants and charter schools in the following manner:
(a) Each qualifying charter school applicant or charter school shall be awarded an initial grant or loan, or a combination thereof, of up to Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00) before or during the first year of the charter school=s operation. If an applicant for a charter school receives an initial grant or loan pursuant to this paragraph and fails to begin operating a charter school within the following eighteen (18) months, the applicant shall reimburse the State Department of Education for the amount of the initial grant plus interest calculated at a rate of ten percent (10%) per year.
(b) Applicants for charter schools and charter schools that received initial grants or loans pursuant to paragraph (a) may apply to the State Department of Education for an additional grant or loan of up to Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00). If an applicant for a charter school receives an additional grant or loan pursuant to this paragraph and fails to begin operating a charter school within the following eighteen (18) months, the applicant shall reimburse the State Department of Education for the amount of the additional grant or loan, plus interest calculated at a rate of ten percent (10%) a year. A reimbursement required by this paragraph is in addition to any reimbursement required under paragraph (a).
(3) Loan repayments for loans made pursuant to this section shall be deposited into the Charter Schools Stimulus Fund. Such loans must be repaid in full no later than five (5) years after the initial loan is made.
SECTION 9. The State Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Finance and Administration, shall annually publish a list of vacant and unused buildings and vacant and unused portions of buildings that are owned by the state or by school districts in the state which may be suitable for the operation of a charter school. The State Department of Education shall make the list available to applicants for charter schools and to existing charter schools. The list shall include the address of each building, a short description of the building and the name of the owner of the building. Nothing in this section requires the owner of a building on the list to sell or lease the building or a portion of the building to a charter school or to any other school or to any other prospective buyer or tenant.
SECTION 10. A school district, school district employee or any other person who has control over personnel actions shall not take unlawful reprisal against an employee of the school district because the employee is directly or indirectly involved in an application to establish a charter school. A school district employee shall not take unlawful reprisal against an educational program of the school or the school district because an application to establish a charter school proposes the conversion of all or a portion of the educational program to a charter school.
As used in this section, Aunlawful reprisal@ means an action that is taken by a school district employee as a direct result of a lawful application to establish a charter school and that is adverse to an employee or an education program and:
(a) With respect to a school district employee, results in one or more of the following:
(i) Disciplinary or correction action;
(ii) Detail, transfer or reassignment;
(iii) Suspension, demotion or dismissal;
(iv) An unfavorable performance evaluation;
(v) A reduction in pay, benefits or awards;
(vi) Elimination of the employee=s position without a reduction in force by reason of lack of monies or work; or
(vii) Other significant changes in duties or responsibilities which are inconsistent with the employee=s salary or employment classification.
(b) With respect to an educational program, results in one or more of the following:
(i) Suspension or termination of the program;
(ii) Transfer or reassignment of the program to a less favorable department;
(iii) Relocation of the program to a less favorable site within the school or school district; or
(iv) Significant reduction or termination of funding for the program.
SECTION 11. (1) A charter school may contract, sue and be sued.
(2) A charter school may own property. If the school closes, the property of the school shall become the property of its sponsor, unless the school and its sponsor agree in writing to some other disposition of the property.
(3) Employees of a charter school may participate in the health insurance and retirement plans available to employees of the school district in which the charter school is located.
(4) A charter school may accept grants, gifts, devises or donations under the same conditions and subject to the same requirements as those for school districts.
SECTION 12. For the purposes of this act, the
"charter" means an approved application for a charter school.
SECTION 13. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997.